Don’t compound compaction woes

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COLUMBUS – For many Ohio farmers, this is the wettest fall since 2003. Not only is the weather throwing a strike at this year’s harvest and wheat planting, wet soil compacts easily and that can lead to problems next spring.

Here are some tips from Ohio State ag engineer Randall Reeder to help reduce compaction, ranging from quick and cheap, to things that work long term:

  • Run tires at the correct pressure for the load. Many farm tires are over-inflated, which reduces the tire footprint, increasing compaction. Over-inflation also reduces traction.
  • Remove excess weights. For a tractor used to pull gravity bed wagons, remove weights that are only necessary for tillage operations.
  • Don’t fill the grain cart to capacity. On wet soil, plan to empty the grain cart when it’s half to three-quarters full. The grain cart is usually the heaviest piece of equipment in the field, followed by the combine and tractors.
  • Try to empty the combine before the grain tank is full. Of course this may reduce field efficiency a bit during harvest, but could pay off in less compaction.
  • When you make several trips across a field, try to run in the same path, rather than making a new track with each pass.
  • Add more tires, or switch to bigger tires or rubber tracks. More rubber in contact with the ground for the same total axle load means tire inflation pressure can be lower, reducing pressure on the soil.
  • Practice controlled traffic. Wet soils show the value of a system where all traffic is confined to specific paths year after year. With auto-steering systems more available today, the opportunities for controlled traffic are much greater than a few years ago.
  • Use permanent no-till, perhaps with strip-till for corn. Soil that is tilled every other year does not develop a good structure that can support heavy loads as well as long term no-till.

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